U.S. Defence Secretary Talks To China's Counterpart
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with Chinese Minister of National Defense Wei Fenghe this morning, the first known call between the two since Austin ascended to the top office in the Pentagon.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the call was a “follow-up” to the recent call between President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Kirby added that on the call with Wei, Austin discussed U.S. and Chinese defense relations, regional security issues and Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
Austin, who became the Pentagon chief more than a year ago, requested the call with Wei following months of failed efforts to speak with China’s highest-ranking military officer, Gen. Xu Qiliang.
The call follows repeated warnings from Washington that Beijing, the world’s second-largest economy, should not provide material or financial support to Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
Beijing Paves New Trade Route Circumventing Russia
On Wednesday, Chinese propaganda outlet stated that China has launched a rail route to Germany that bypasses Russia. On it, trains will be able to reach the German city of Mannheim.
The new route runs through Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. It crosses the Caspian and Black Seas with the help of combined rail and sea transportation. On April 13, the first train loaded with sporting goods left the city of Xi'an.
The new route passes through countries and regions rarely crossed by trains from China. Xi'an-based international logistics company Ruian believes that the efficiency of such transportation will increase and costs will be reduced. Such a route "will help to establish export in the current situation," the company manager explained.
In early March, Russian newspaper Vedomosti reported, citing several sources, that Chinese shippers had begun to suspend the transit of goods through Russia to the EU. Rail transportation has practically stopped, the newspaper wrote.
An employee of a European logistics company told the newspaper that some manufacturers from Communist China, who traditionally carried goods by rail, began to reorient themselves towards sea and road transport. Russian railway firm RZD did not confirm this at the time.